In the fall of 2006, my former spouse and I were splitting up our tiny universe, and one day he came over to my then apartment to figure out how to online bank. I had been the bill payer of the household, the one who knew the ins and outs of the entire process, and now that we'd moved along even further into our separation and eventual divorce, he needed his account all to himself.
We spent an hour or so going over the whole process, and I sent him home with a page of instructions. Later that night, he called me and left a message, telling me he'd been locked out of the account and couldn't get in because he'd tried too many times. What was he to do? How was he to pay him bills? he asked.
And about five minutes after his message came an alert from the bank that yes, in fact, my account had been locked, and I needed to go in and reset things and start all over in order for banking to again commence.
I know you are all sucking in breath right now. I know you are shouting, "Don't do it! It's a scam! It's SPAM! It's a trick."
The truth of the matter is that the trick had impeccable timing. Everything seemed above board. I came home, listened to his message, read the email, clicked into the site, and gave it all up. All of it. My personal data, my secret PIN, my mother's maiden name, my birthplace. All of it went to someone in New York, who then commenced to go on a spending spree with my former spouse's hard earned teaching money. Trips, luggage, shoes, electronics, some of which were accidentally sent to my former address and that alerted my spouse to the issue at hand.
"What in the hell are you doing?" he said to me. "Why are you spending all my money."
Thus began an odyssey that has lasted until even now. Once we were able to lock down all of the liquid money and get it returned to the account, the phishers of stolen information went after new accounts, new credit cards, new mobile phone accounts. We both ended up on the phone for hours over the next few months with credit and account managers, and at this moment, my credit is frozen at the three major credit reporting bureaus. All of my credit cards have double secret passwords, words and phrases I had to create fresh and new because the thieves have my old ones.
And what fun they've had. They've gotten credit cards sent new addresses, changing my address to places well east of the Mississippi. They've ordered things to be sent to my former spouses home and then picked them up from there. They've joined match.com, ordered flowers from FTD.com, and bought a lot of porn. They've bought running shoes (for their getaway from the cops that won't bother to hunt them down?) and ball gowns.
Right now, I think I have the slightest bit of control over the situation, but it's been a true ordeal. And I'm not a rube. I didn't just fall off the turnip truck. I'm relatively computer savvy and had, in fact, seen that phishing email before. But because my mind was set on the true lock down of the account, I followed the phish down the river.
I think of the people who steal. I actually don't understand how one can steal from another human. It's easier to take from places where the human face isn't clear or imaginable, maybe gum from Wal-Mart of something. But when there is a person in the bank account, hard earned money that isn't easy to come by, how do you do that?
This weekend at my gym, I put my shampoo bag on a hook along with my towels and went into the steam room. When I came out of the steam room, no bag. I grabbed my towels and then realized that something was missing. I stared at my hand, the empty hook, the space around me. It was hard to fathom, this theft. I wandered around the locker room a little, looking at the women getting dressed, imagining them with my pink leather bag, and I thought, How damn weird. How do you move into that space of take?
I guess I won't ever figure any of this out, but for the rest of my credit life, I will have to unlock the freeze on my credit each time I want to finance something--a car, a house. If I want to open up another credit card, I will have to do the same thing.
And one thing is for sure: I won't hang my brand new shampoo bag on the hook!
We have gotten so happy and used to this virtual world, but there is the dark side, that place where people have learned to do some of the things people have always done. Some people have found the fissure, slipped in, rummaged about, and run off with the virtual shampoo.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org